+ Point of view

How to survive as a thought leader

Written by Elliot Harrison

Did you know there are literally thousands of cybersecurity companies out there in the world with thousands of thought leaders? You may shrug and think I’ve made an obvious statement, but just let that word circulate around your mind for a second. Thousands.

Imagine being a journalist writing about the latest cyber attack, facing a choice of comments proffered from hundreds of PRs, representing thought leaders at thousands of companies. Overwhelming much?

The Momentum Cyberscape 2018 – v2.5 Yes, there are a lot of them.

We know all of this. So what? Well, this month I was in a hotel in central London with a client. He remarked that London was one of the last bastions of journalism that actually looks for real insight from experts, a good story and a healthy conversation. In short, the UK press values genuine expertise.

I’m inclined to agree. But why is this important now? Let’s remind ourselves of the journalist writing about the latest cyber attack – how do they get some quick, engaging, valuable and relevant opinion from an expert to help form the article? Often they don’t need to look far because there is always a PR nearby ready and willing with an expert in tow.

The curse of the silent thought leader
In my experience the worst kind of ‘thought leader’ is the one you never meet. So many times in my career have I had clients who, despite urging them to, have failed to provide myself and my team with someone that can say something genuinely interesting and insightful.

Sadly, this happens too often and not all have the confidence and ability to cut through to that journalist writing about the latest cyber news I mentioned earlier. In B2B Tech PR, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it at all.

Engage with your PR agency, they are there for you.
The worst thought leader is the one you never meet. If you’re a marketeer or comms professional that has appointed a PR agency and fails to provide them with market, competitor and issues commentary from a viable thought leader, the lack of results is largely on you. My 10 years in this game tell me what works and what doesn’t. So, if you have a PR team pushing for more insight, more information or access to a thought leader for a briefing, it’s usually for a good reason.

Survival of the thought leader
There is great responsibility in being a thought leader. However, marketers need to brief their thought leaders well enough to make the best out of the opportunities that come their way. Not all opportunities will result in coverage, but you can heighten your chances in a few ways.

  1. Don’t repeat what others are saying – that’s the equivalent of copying from your mate’s textbook at school.
  2. Make sure what you have to say includes genuine market expertise and insight. If you don’t know much about the market, this will come across you’ll probably lose out.
  3. Ensure your comment is helpful and provides some insight into what the next steps might be. Providing some insight as to the ‘next bounce of the ball’ demonstrates your expertise and experience in the space.

It’s not easy being a thought leader today. But the opportunity is there, journalists all over are crying out for insight and if marketing teams have strong PR agencies behind them. Thought leaders will thrive.

PR should be intuitive. Too often it is not. But then, what would I know?

Christian Smith, Co-Founder TrackR (Now Adero)

Bill Conner, CEO SonicWall

 

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